What's so active about listening? You may think that all listening entails merely hearing. That's the biological function of our ears. Listening can actually be a very creative and intellectual endeavor. But it's not something to take lightly or for those of us who are not in the mood. Let me explain...
Active listening is NOT: interrupting, judging, taking over the conversation, tuning out, giving advice or pretending to listen.
Active listening is:
- Reflecting feelings
- Genuinely showing interest
We acknowledge our speaker by saying, "Go on," "Uh huh," or "Tell me more...."
We paraphrase, not parrot, by repeating in our own words, what the speaker has said: "So you're saying that..."
Reflecting feelings can be applied to both strong positive or negative feelings from our speaker. Example, someone slams the door. What are they saying? Rather than respond by telling them not to slam the door, you can say, "Seems like you're angry..." or simply, "You're feeling angry (frustrated, etc.).
Empathizing is not showing pity or sympathy, but rather understanding. Instead of saying "I understand," say what it is that you understand: "I understand that you are feeling worried about that..."
Be mindful that we often tune out when we disagree with what the speaker is saying. It's important to detach if you disagree, not take it personally. Understand that "the opinions expressed here..." --you know the drill! You need to be genuine and genuinely interested. Sometimes it's okay to let someone know you aren't particularly interested in discussing a topic. I do that with my DH when he talks about football because I just don't get it and don't wish to! Otherwise, I feign listening and my eyes glaze over. You know how that happens. We all do that at times.
Listening begets listening. Sales representatives know this--good ones anyway. When they listen to you, you often listen to them. When you listen to someone, you're giving them a gift. They feel good and cared about. When we actively listen, we relieve ourselves of the burden of solving other people's problems.
So next time you're tempted to say something, just listen...REALLY listen, with both ears and an open heart and mind.